Along with adding depth to a meal — from their nuttiness to their texture — grains are a great addition to a healthy diet thanks to their various nutrients. There are two subgroups of grains: whole grains and refined grains. But health experts praise whole grains as the clear winner of the two, since they contain higher amounts of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, antioxidants, phytochemicals and fiber.
The U.S. Whole Grains Council attributes eating 100 percent whole grains to a reduced risk of stroke by more than 30 percent, a reduced risk for type 2 diabetes by 20 percent to 30 percent, a significantly lowered risk for heart disease risk factors, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, help with better weight management, a reduced risk of asthma, obesity prevention, and a reduced risk of many inflammatory diseases.
There are various whole grains (including gluten-free options!) that are both yummy and incredibly nutritious to add to your diet. Below are 12 grains to put on your radar.
1. Brown Rice
Definitely one of the most common grains on the list, brown rice is a simple, inexpensive and delicious add-on to many meals thanks to its soft texture and mildly nutty taste. The grain is a great source of manganese, selenium and magnesium. It’s also full of fiber, antioxidants and aids in the stabilization of blood sugar.
- These Cilantro Lime Shrimp Bowls are colorful concoctions of yumminess that will fill you up for hours without weighing you down.
Though it’s technically a seed and not a grain, it’s commonly considered a grain. A complete protein, it’s the perfect addition to a vegan’s diet. Quinoa is incredibly nutritious, offering high levels of vitamin E and calcium. This nutty, crunchy, earthy food is also gluten-free.
- Try the Rise and Shine Breakfast Quinoa for a new take on cereal.
- And this Healthy Thai Coconut Quinoa Bowl is full of flavors and packed with nutrients.
Farro offers a very chewy texture and nutty taste. This ancient grain is a great source of protein, fiber and nutrients like magnesium and iron. Like all whole grains, it’s rich in complex carbohydrates, most notably dietary fiber — even more so than popular grains such as rice or quinoa.
- When you want to add a little extra texture and earthy flavor to your salad, give this Farro Green Energy Salad a try.
4. Wheat berries
Wheat berries offer a sweet nutty flavor and crunchy texture. They are whole, unprocessed wheat kernels containing bran, germ and endosperm of the kernel, making them extremely nutritional. Full of fiber, protein and B vitamins, they’re one of the less common grains of the group that make for a great base to so many dishes.
- This Roasted Salmon & Veggie Bowl is rich in flavor and full of healthy ingredients, and makes for the perfect big lunch or light dinner.
Despite its name, buckwheat is actually a gluten-free seed that’s packed with nutrients including protein and fiber. The seeds, also referred to as “groats,” are so rich in antioxidants like rutin, tannins and catechin, that the food often gets touted as a superfood. Its intense taste resembles darkly toasted bread that will certainly bring a unique flavor to recipes.
- This Healthy Strawberry Galette is the perfect gluten-free indulgence.
- And these Healthy Baked Pancakes will delight your sweet tooth.
Amaranth is another seed that’s often referred to as a grain! Along with being gluten-free and high in fiber, it also boasts protein that is more digestible than other seeds and grains, often being compared to the digestibility of milk protein. It has a gelatinous consistency when cooked, and a slight popping sensation when chewed.
- When you want comfort food without the guilt, this Cauliflower Mac n’ Chicken Casserole is your go-to.
Barley is similar in taste to brown rice, but with a much chewier texture. This healthy grain is low in fat but high in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals like manganese, magnesium and iron, and is a good source of plant-based protein. Even more, it scores very low on the glycemic index thanks to its rich fiber content.
- When something hot and hearty is calling your name, try this Slow Cooker Butternut Squash, Bean, and Barley Stew.
Millet has a mild, pleasing and very slight nutty taste. The gluten-free grain is chock-full of nutrients, including calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium, and has a high B-vitamin content. It’s also a great source of healthy essential fats.
- Try these delicious Chewy Dark Chocolate Cherry Protein Granola Bars with Chia Seeds featuring puffed millet.
Spelt, which has a sweet, nutty chewiness, may not be at the top of your grain list just yet, but it’s quickly gaining popularity thanks to its healthful qualities. Offering an array of nutrients like complex carbohydrates, vitamin B2, niacin, manganese, thiamin, copper, and magnesium, minerals, fatty acids, amino acids and more, it’s a light grain that offers a soft and tender touch to baked goods.
- These Big Fat Fluffy Healthy Corn Muffins are a great way to incorporate spelt.
- And these Double Chocolate Guinness Brownies are to die for!
Oats have been leading the grain train for what seems like forever. Touted as one of the healthiest grains on Earth, they’re a gluten-free whole grain that offer a plethora of important vitamins, minerals, fiber and antioxidants into your diet. Health experts often recommend waking up with a bowl of oats to aid in your weight loss goals.
- This Slow Cooker Creamy Coconut Steel Cut Oats recipe will take your morning bowl to the next level.
- And these Beetroot Pancakes will give you your daily dose of oats (and buckwheat, too!).
This gluten-free grain has a deliciously rich nutty flavor. It’s high in fiber, a great source of protein, manganese, iron and calcium. It’s another one of those grains you may not be familiar with yet, but it’s ability to contribute to weight management is enough reason to swap it in and throw out the refined grains.
- This Blueberry Lemon Bread is a tasty treat that offers a bit of a nutrition boost from the addition of the teff flour.